WACO, Texas — Deep in the heart of Texas, Kansas can clinch at least a share of its ninth straight Big 12 title today with a victory over Baylor. Earlier this week, KU coach Bill Self said a ninth title would be the most gratifying one since he's been at KU. The Jayhawks dusted themselves off after a three-game losing streak, including a cataclysmic loss at TCU, and rallied for seven straight Big 12 wins down the stretch.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
But even so, Self's statement is a strong one. The Jayhawks have collected trophies for eight straight seasons, but it's been far from easy. There have been three shared titles (2005, 2006 and 2008), late-season collapses by the competition (Texas in 2011), and championships won by freshmen-dominated lineups ('06 and '09).
One year, the Jayhawks even needed a late-season assist from Pat Knight. (They got it.)
Here's a look at KU's eight-straight titles, ranked by degree of difficulty, beginning with the least stressful championship campaign.
8. 2010: 33-3, 15-1
Leading scorer: Sherron Collins, 15.5 ppg
Senior Sherron Collins and junior Cole Aldrich came back for another run, the Morris twins matured into impact players, and Xavier Henry showed up for a one-and-done season in Lawrence. The result: KU breezed to another title, lapping the competition by four games.
7. 2007: 33-5, 14-2
Leading scorer: Brandon Rush, 13.8 ppg
One of the best defensive teams in KU history won the Big 12 by a full game over Texas A&M — and two games over Kevin Durant and Texas.
6. 2012: 32-7, 16-2
Leading scorer: Thomas Robinson, 17.7 ppg
After a midseason loss at Missouri, Kansas rode the back of All-American Thomas Robinson and senior guard Tyshawn Taylor to a league title in the first season of round-robin scheduling. The decisive win came in an epic comeback against Missouri at Allen Fieldhouse; although KU won the league by two full games and would have still shared the title even if it had lost to Mizzou at home.
5. 2011: 35-3, 14-2
Leading scorer: Marcus Morris, 17.2 ppg
On Feb. 16, the Jayhawks were 9-2 and trailed Texas by two games in the league standings. They'd also lost to the Longhorns at Allen Fieldhouse. The end of the line? Nope.
The Longhorns lost three of their last five, suffering losses at Nebraska, Colorado and at home against K-State. Kansas won its last five, clinching an unlikely outright title with a 70-66 victory at Missouri on the final day of the regular season.
4. 2005: 23-7, 12-4 (shared title with Oklahoma)
Leading scorer: Wayne Simien, 20.3 ppg
The streak began, but ... KU limped to the finish line in the final season for Wayne Simien, Aaron Miles and Keith Langford. The Jayhawks suffered a three-game skid in late February and fell at Missouri on March 6. That final loss kept Kansas from winning the title outright. And Oklahoma, which beat KU in Norman on Feb. 21, grabbed a share of the title.
3. 2008: 37-3, 13-3 (shared title with Texas)
Leading scorer: Brandon Rush, 13.3 ppg
The eventual NCAA champs nearly broke the streak. Kansas started the season 20-0, but then suffered Big 12 road losses at K-State, Texas and Oklahoma State. After the loss in Stillwater on Feb. 23, they were a game behind Texas in the league standings.
Somehow — and were still not quite sure how — the Longhorns lost in Lubbock on March 1. That was the same Texas Tech team that lost by 58 at Allen Fieldhouse on March 3, the same squad comprised of Martin Zeno, Alan Voskuil and Josh Roberson. (Exactly.)
It’s easy to forget now. But perhaps the best team in Kansas history needed an assist from Pat Knight to win the Big 12.
2. 2009: 27-8, 14-2
Leading scorer: Sherron Collins, 18.9 ppg
With a rebuilt roster following the 2008 NCAA title, Kansas still won the title outright. But the Jayhawks needed a late charge to do it.
With star Blake Griffin out with a concussion, Kansas defeated Oklahoma 87-78 in Norman, and held a one-game lead over the Sooners on March 4. That day, the Jayhawks, which had freshmen Tyshawn Taylor and the Morris twins in the rotation, went down to Texas Tech and got smoked 84-65. But Oklahoma lost at No. 12 Missouri on the same day, and KU edged Oklahoma and Griffin by a game.
1. 2006: 25-8, 13-3 (shared title with Texas)
Leading scorer: Brandon Rush, 13.5 ppg
Kansas lost to K-State at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 16, and Christian Moody missed two late free throws in a loss at Missouri two days later. The Jayhawks were 1-2 in the Big 12 when Self went to a starting lineup with Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush and Julian Wright.
Texas, meanwhile, had a lineup with future NBA All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge and standouts P.J. Tucker, Daniel Gibson and Brad Buckman. The Longhorns thrashed the Jayhawks 80-55 on Feb. 25 in Austin, but that would be the only loss in KU’s last 13 conference games.
Texas would fall at Oklahoma State and Texas A&M (thanks Acie Law!), and KU would avenge its loss in Austin with a victory over Texas in the Big 12 tourney title game in Dallas.
To reach Rustin Dodd, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/rustindodd.